Annemiek van Vleuten all but cemented her third Giro Donne overall win, taking a second stage victory in Aldeno on Friday.
Despite crashing on the final descent, she was able to finish 29 seconds ahead of Marta Cavalli, whose second place has elevated her to the same position on GC.
Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) had her best day of the race so far, timing her effort to perfection and using her excellent descending skills to their best effect to take third place on the day.
The stage was active all day, never once settling, making for exciting viewing.
Van Vleuten was her usual imperious self, the Movistar rider bridging to a lone breakaway rider on the final climb, eventually dropping her and holding off the attentions of Cavalli, the FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine rider establishing herself as a GC winner of the future.
After appearing vulnerable on the earlier descents Van Vleuten’s crash on the descent came when her lead on the Italian was approaching 50 seconds, but despite overcooking a right hander and coming down hard, she was able to extend her lead to 59 seconds in the final five kilometres.
With one more mountain stage to come, before a less challenging final day into Padova on Sunday, she leads overall by 2-13 on Cavalli.
Saturday though, is no café ride. Starting at San Michele all’Adige and finishing 112km later in San Lorenzo Dorsino, the race takes in three climbs in the Dolomites, including the race’s Cima Coppi (It’s highest point), the Passo Daone, 1291 metres above sea level.
How it happened
For stage eight the Giro Donne has moved further north for a second, possibly decisive mountain stage.
Starting in Rovereto, not far from the northern tip of Lake Garda, and south of Trento, the race head south, returning north up the valley and into the mountains for two significant climbs.
Passo Bordala came first, 15km at an average gradient of 6.9%, it topped out just over half way. Second was the 10km climb to Lago di Cei, which was 7.3% and sure to see some action. However, the 12km descent to Aldeno was sure provide some opportunities.
Though it might be difficult to upstage the mountains which tower over Rivereto, the town’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Arts tried its best, riders signing on in its serene feeling courtyard.
Attacks came early with, with a number getting small gaps before being dragged back. On the early slopes of the Bordala climb, Australian Brodie Chapman (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) took her turn.
With Chapman not far up the road her compatriot, stage one winner Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) went after her, only for German Clara Koppenburg (Cofidis), to tag along. Faulkner, whose team mate Amanda Spratt abandoned before the stage suffering with COVID taking room mate Georgia Baker with her, eventually headed on alone, while Koppenburg and Chapman worked together. With Anouska Koster (Jumbo-Visma) in pursuit the peloton slipped to 1-48 behind the leader.
Faulkner topped the climb alone with Koppenburg not to far behind and Chapman in the gap ahead of a peloton now consisting of just a handful of riders, including the favourites and race leader Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar).
The same descent would be ridden twice, off each climb, and Lucinda Brand, in the group with Trek-Segafredo team mate Longo Borghini split the group, distancing Mavi García (UAE Team ADQ) who needed team mate Erica Magnaldi to get her back.
Van Vleuten was also briefly distanced, but Brand, and Cavalli who started the day third overall, worked together further distance the Spaniard, Chapman coming back to help her captain, executing the French team’s strategy
Brand eventually led a small group off the front, though FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope set about closing the gap, catching them some 24km from the line, Faulkner still 1-35 up the road.
After being distanced by Cavalli on the descent, Van Vleuten had to attack to defend. Team mate Jelena Erić set a furious pace into the bottom of the climb before the race leader attacked, once again taking Cavalli and García with her. Once again the race’s three strongest women were alone on a climb.
With Faulkner still ahead, at 18.5km to go, Van Vleuten dropped the other two, catching Faulkner who sat on, while behind García was in trouble, the 39 year-old falling back. Cavalli ground her way doggedly on, hoping to climb to second overall
With Cavalli edging ever closer to the leading duo, Van Vleuten went again, and though she dropped Faulkner the Italian was still closing gradually. But the pressure eventually told for the 24 year-old, and the Dutch woman stretched, bent and finally broke the elastic, cresting the final climb 12km from the line with a lead of 34 seconds on the Italian.
While behind García had completely capitulated, sliding ever backwards the to leaders were just about equal until Van Vleuten’s crash, which seemed either to spur her on or dent Cavalli’s confidence.
ResultGiro Donne, stage eight: Rovereto - Aldeno (112.8km)
1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Movistar in 3-03-16
2. Marta Cavalli (Ita) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at 59 sec
3. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 1-38
4. Kristen Faulkner (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco at 1-45
5. Niamh Fisher-Black (NZ) SDWorx at 3-01
6. Mavi García (Esp) UAE Team ADQ
7. Juliette Labous (Fra) DSM
8.Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope all at same time
9. Neve Bradbury (Aus) Canyon-SRAM at 3-10
10. Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service at 3-59
General classification after stage eight
1. Annemiek van Veuten (Ned) Movistar in 21-17-18
2. Cavalli (Ita) FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at 2-13
3. Mavi García (Esp) UAE Team ADQ Marta at 3-42
4. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 7-03
5. Niamh Fisher-Black (NZ) SDWorx 9-05
6. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope at 9-33
7. Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar Travel and Service 10-41
8. Erica Magnaldi (Ita) UAE Team ADQ at 12-35
9. Juliette Labous (Fra) DSM at 13-25
10. Elise Chabbey (Sui) Canyon-SRAM at 13-29
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